Japan: suicide by drowning

David Hayes
8 September 2008

A small ad in the British journalists' trade magazine the Press Gazette
has always stayed in my mind. It was placed by a freelancer in Tokyo
seeking commissions. The ad listed all the subjects the writer
could cover and finished "..plus all the wacky Japan stuff".

How much of what is published (and broadcast) about Japan in the
British media comes into this category? A first estimate might be 80%.
Among the rest, there is consistently intelligent and informative
reporting in the Financial Times and the Economist. There is also good material online, such as the excellent Japan Focus.

openDemocracy's writers on Japan are Takashi Inoguchi, professor of
politics at Chuo University in Tokyo; the historian John Dower (author of the essential book on Japan, America and war, War without Mercy: Race and
Power in the Pacific War
and Noriko Hama of
Doshisha Business School.

Noriko Hama's latest article dissects the political character of the departing prime minister Yasuo
Fukuda. It is as ever mordant and fearless, and puts incisive wit
to the service of a serious argument:

"Yasuo Fukuda's predecessor was Shinzo Abe. He also quit his job after
barely a year in office. If Abe was a Marie Antoinette in his
"let-them-eat-cake" detachment from the plight of the working poor,
Fukuda is a Rip Van Winkle in his ignorance of the concept of
accountability in government. Both sets of flaws are typical of the
[Liberal Democratic Party]. Both are the failings of a group of people who have never really
had to fight for acknowledgment out in the open, to earn respect and
legitimacy through debate and persuasion."

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